EXCLUSIVE Call of Duty: Black Ops II Pre-Review

This is the first of a series of “pre-reviews” I’m doing of the newest, hottest, unreleased games. A pre-review is a comprehensive, top-to-bottom, no-holds-barred review done before actually playing any of the game. Hold on tight and buckle your seat belt!

It may be too early to say, but CODBLOPS 2 is in serious contention for game of the year. The single-player seems to have been given the most polish, which is pretty lengthy, involved, and legitimately mature. The same can’t be said for the multi-player, unfortunately.

Ever since Activision Blizzard CEO Robert Kotaku first announced this game, it’s been nearly impossible having to wait to play this game. I’m still waiting. Now, let’s dive in.

From the first ten minutes of non-interactive cut scenes, you can tell that this is finally where Treyarch Ward has hit their stride. After taking over the reins from Infinity Gauntlet, they’ve quickly attuned to the fast-paced action the COD series regularly demands. The intro is mostly a catch-up for gamers who missed the first game, and only in the final 30 minutes of witless, dull exposition does it get into the beginning of this game’s story.

CODBLOPS 2 picks up in 1998, where the first CODBLOPS left off. You play as WWII marine Tabbernackle Soapendish, the popular star of the early Call of Duty games, and the three Modern Warfare titles, where he was resurrected and time-traveled the present day. If you can remember roughly 7 months ago when the first Black Ops came out, Tabbernackle narrowly averted the total nuclear annihilation of some places on Earth I don’t remember. This time, a new threat emerges and threatens to nuclearly annihilate some different places.

Joining you in your fight is pretty much the whole cast from the last game. Kentucky Jamfellow, the lovable racist everyone loved to loved in BLOPS is back, as well as Bluejay Suede, a Native-American tracker, and finally Kate Williams, the boring medic character no one remembers. As always, you’re lead through each consecutive mission by your old commander General Jackson Johnson, who is still getting used to being a zombie, after being killed and hastily brought back by the Emergence Elixir in the last game.

It’s subtle, but you can really tell through Tabbernackle’s character arc that the developers have finally listened to the critics and delivered on a believable and grounded story. The problem with the past games, in which you shoot nameless, random people in gruesome ways, was that it glorified the war mentality and senseless violence while, at the same time, the story gave lip service to violence and war being a bad thing.

This time, all the murdering and killing you do is shown to be heartless and cruel, so you feel guilt and horror at committing these atrocities. The story comments on this strange disconnect that’s been plaguing the entire franchise, by sort of slyly retconning the past games (I won’t spoil how). It’s not a hack-job, and it gives those deplorably macho and aging titles a second-wind. Now, countless free-thinking and reasoning human beings finally have a reason to play them.

The action has been tightened up, and due to the story’s new stance on how it deals with its themes of violence, the game has been made more “realistic” as a stylistic choice in several different ways. You are allowed to carry as many guns as you want, but with each successive gun, you move slower and are much easier to hit. Although some may complain, it seems more realistic when the game is only playable using a knife because adding any kind of gun weighs you down so much you can’t move.

Additionally, there’s a great mechanic that occurs at the end of each mission. Depending on the amount of men you’ve killed, you shed exponentially more and more tears. After a set number of tears, you also hug the other men you’ve been fighting with. After each successive play-through, you shed less tears and don’t hug the other soldiers as much. After my next two play-throughs I should be able to play through the game without shedding a single tear or seeking the companionship and consolation of my fellow soldiers in a hug. If you’re able to do this, you end up with the best Achievement in the game, called “Inhuman.”

Although none of the action set-pieces reach the near-absurd heights of the Zombie Bear Research Lab sequence in the first BLOPS, which was a brilliant, mid-game tension releaser, there are a few notable scenes. The mission where you’re the leader of a firing squad, as you swivel in place, and kill enemy after successive enemy for 30 minutes, is probably the one that stands out the most. The amount of enemies you can kill in this mission is put on an online leaderboard, and you can view how you stack up against the other players after you’ve finished the mission. The PTSD QTE scene when you return home to your family is probably going to tug quite a few gamers’ heartstrings.

Now, we’re coming to the only negative part of the review – the multi-player. As I played more rounds, it became very apparent that barely any work went into it. From what I can ascertain, the multi-player is almost completely untouched from the first BLOPS, aside from some polish. For example, the models of the guns look more polished and shiny, and the sun glints off of the sides when you’re in levels where the sun’s out. Although to be fair, I may need to play the multi-player online and also with other people playing, to actually judge this accurately.

CODBLOPS 2 completely shattered all of my expectations. This is a tremendous achievement, and possibly the best Treyarch game ever made. Now I just need to wait until it comes out next month so I can finally play it.

  • kikkoman

    Based on your review I can tell this game is worth getting. Thanks Mr. Rat.